Renewing his battle with congressional Republicans over federal spending, President Obama said Monday that the FBI and other agencies need more money to do their jobs.
Speaking at the formal installation of new FBI Director James Comey at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, Mr. Obama told employees that their mission “keeps expanding” in spite of the government requiring them to carry out their jobs with less money.
“Unfortunately, the resources allotted to that mission has been reduced by sequestration,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ll keep fighting for those resources because our country asks and expects a lot from you.”
The president said the extra money is needed because “many of your colleagues put their lives on the line on a daily basis, all to serve and protect our fellow citizens.”
“The least we can do is make sure you’ve got the resources for it and that your operations are not disrupted because of politics in this town,” he said.
A bipartisan House-Senate budget conference committee will meet this week to consider spending levels for fiscal 2014, as part of the agreement that ended the 16-day government shutdown earlier this month.
Mr. Comey, the bureau’s seventh director, told reporters last month that the sequester budget cuts were hurting the FBI’s ability to investigate domestic crime and to conduct counterterrorism probes.
The bureau has a hiring freeze and may have to cut 10 percent, or $800 million, out of its expected fiscal 2014 budget of about $8.1 billion. Mr. Comey said that will require him to cut 3,000 positions, and that he might need to furlough many employees.
In addition, the FBI training academy at Quantico, Va., has been inactive due to lack of funds.
Mr. Obama called Mr. Comey “a remarkable new leader” for the FBI.
“Jim has dedicated his life to defending our laws,” Mr. Obama said.
As he starts his 10-year term, Mr. Comey said he will order all new FBI agents and analysts to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall as a reminder of the bureau’s past abuses of power. The FBI spied on King during the civil rights era.
“I think it will serve as a different kind of lesson, one more personal to the bureau, of the dangers in becoming untethered to oversight and accountability,” Mr. Comey said.
He said he will continue the practice of previous directors to require all new agents to also visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, “so they could see and feel and hear in a palpable way the consequences of abuse of power on a massive, almost unimaginable scale.”
Mr. Comey said integrity is a key part of the agency’s mission.
“Without integrity, all is lost,” he said. “It is a gift that must be protected and earned every single day.”
A former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mr. Comey served as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration. Prior to his nomination, he had worked as general counsel for Lockheed Martin Corp.
The Senate approved Mr. Comey’s nomination in July by a vote of 93-1. The lone dissenter was Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, who objects to the agency’s drone surveillance program.
Robert S. Mueller III, who retired this year after 12 years at the FBI’s helm, was the bureau’s longest-serving director since J. Edgar Hoover, who served for 37 years. Mr. Comey actually took over the job Sept. 4.
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